I’ve already expressed my deep love of kimchi, that spicy Korean condiment made from vegetables (usually cabbage) fermented with garlic, ginger, vinegar, chilies, salt and sesame oil. I’d already experimented with adding kimchi to sandwiches, noodle soup and hot rice. But somehow, I missed the experience of sitting down to a steaming bowl of kimchi jjigae. Until last night, that is.
It’s still winter here in Vermont, with temperatures below freezing most days. My husband and I went out on a date, looking for some simple, good food that would taste delicious going down, but also leave us feeling nourished. Without discussion, we both suggested Shin-La, the Korean restaurant in town that also serves sushi. It took me a few years to realize what a gem this family owned place was, since I always ordered shrimp tempura hand rolls and not the Korean specialties the chefs are so gifted at making.
In this case ignorance was not bliss. But the stew last night was. Kimchi jjigae is an extremely flavorful bowl of thinly sliced tofu and pork belly, simmered in broth with kimchi, onions and scallions. You can also find versions made with seafood. Ours was served piping hot with a bowl of white rice on the side.
Making kimchi jiigae is not time consuming if you have already made the kimchi. You can make a fast version of kimchi but it doesn’t have as much depth as one fermented over time.
It’s worth noting that my husband and I both tend to eat fast because we are usually out with our kids. Last night, however, we were on a date (a new stage in our life with children) and had all the time in the world. This kimchi jjigae was hot and just spicy enough to slow us down so we actually savored the meal as well as each other. I left the restaurant glad it was still winter (else I wouldn’t have tried kimchi jjigae) and feeling totally fulfilled from my mind to my mouth to my heart to my stomach.